On Monday, Dr. Thomas Tsai called in to Boston Public Radio to discuss how local hospitals are holding up as demand for care in the COVID-19 pandemic tics sharply upward.
Tsai, a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said recent steps from healthcare administrators have brought him a degree of comfort.
"If you’d asked me a week or two again, I’d have been worried,” he said. "But I think over the last week and especially over the last several days, the incredible sense of urgency that has taken place in our hospitals [has] really given us a fighting chance to identify, as well as treat, these patients.”
The concept of “flattening the curve” refers to limiting the number of people who need treatment for COVID-19 in its most active period. Tsai said it's particularly crucial for healthcare providers, with limited resources of hospital beds and physician resources, to prepare for a scenario where the spike in COVID patients exceeds what hospitals are able to provide for.
"The average hospital in the United States runs at a 70 percent-plus capacity. And in the Boston area, with our academic tertiary-level centers that bring referrals from other regions, our bed occupancy rates are even higher than that,” he said. "So there isn’t a lot of wiggle room built into the system, typically."
Dr. Thomas Tsai is one of the scientists who did the recent Harvard analysis of the places in the U.S. that could run out of hospital beds as coronavirus spreads.